Monday, April 12, 2010

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

By Deborah Blum

Murder by poison...
The title almost tells the whole story. Almost, because there is a whole lot more to this story than murder by poison. Deborah Blum takes us along a hazardous journey with two pioneers in what we, of this television age, know as CSI - in all its various iterations

Dr. Charles Norris, as chief medical examiner of the great city of New York, takes on murder, accidental and natural deaths, prohibition, politicians, sloppy police work, money-grubbing coroners and mortuaries in a battle for the recognition of Forensic Medicine as a legitimate science and admissible evidence in the courts.

Toxicologist Alexander Gettler, working with Norris, devises tests and experiments for detecting the most obscure poisons that kill by murder or accident.

The history of poisons goes back much further in time than can be imagined. The discoveries that led to how they work helped solved many crimes and improved the knowledge of how the human body works. The chemistry is there but simplified so that the average reader is not boggled by atoms and molecules. The tests and experiments are perhaps, a little grisly, but the results seem to justify them.

The cases are perpetrated by all kinds of people for many strange reasons - anger, hatred, money, insanity, desperation, pure wickedness, accidental, and the Prohibition war between bootleggers and government chemists. This is a telling history of crime in a great city, and those who were in the forefront of solving those crimes.

With The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York Deborah Blum gives us a readable (actually enjoyable) history of the development of forensics through some grim periods in history.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails